OZ HOLNESS RELAYS THE TALE OF WHAT HE DESCRIBED AS THE BEST WELCOME BACK TO ANGLING HE COULD HAVE WISHED FOR, POST LOCKDOWN!

On the evening of the 12th April, straight after Boris released us, I loaded the kit into the van along with a bucket of bait and enough food to last a few days. As I got into bed I set the alarm for 2AM - although I already knew I wouldn’t need it as I wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night!

By 1AM I’d had enough, so I awoke little Jim (the terrier) from his slumber, and we made our way up the motorways to the destination, a good few hours away! It was like a release from a weird dream, and it felt almost apocalyptic with so little traffic around on the roads!

So, we had a few days ahead of us. The weather looked prime; sunny warm days with brisk winds, but cool nights which never bothers me once we are into May… They are up and about and it’s a time that is of the utmost importance to carp preparing themselves for the forthcoming spawning ritual.

The sky was still dark as I pulled up at the entrance to the pit, with just that faint purple and pink glow faintly illuminating the horizon as the sun began its ascent. I sat in the van watching for a while, there seemed no rush, and I just poured a tea from my flask and drank in the atmosphere as dawn unfolded. The wind was blowing whitecaps up to the far end of the pit, which was the area I had earmarked for attention if the conditions were favourable and an area that had been kind to me on many occasions the previous year. After a while watching, I drove to the windward end and pulled on a coat to shield me from the effects of that early morning chill and made my way around the banks to a favourite viewing area. Another cup of tea from the flask and I sat scanning the choppy water looking for signs. It didn’t take long. A huge head and bulky shoulders broke the surface chop, disrupting those rhythmic patterns of swell and I knew I had to act quickly. It was the sign I needed, and I knew things would get busy as the day wore on. There really was no time to lose! Walking back to the van I glanced back down the pit and there again, a huge set of shoulders breached the surface… Obviously, the walk soon became a run!

The morning passed with a couple of smaller fish showing on the strengthening breeze and the sun shone with intensity over the scene in the bay. Around midday a violent take on one of the lightly baited rods sent me scurrying for the waders from behind the shelter of the reed bed. I ploughed into the crystal-clear waters and did battle with a long, dark, ancient looking common so typical of the pit. A few self-takes behind the old birch trees and I slipped him back home, as the adrenaline flushed through my veins. Exactly the feeling I had been awaiting all those weeks before, now a reality and so welcome!

I re-baited a fresh rig with an oily Krill cork-balled hookbait that I’d made in my garage during those weeks of imprisonment and flicked the rod back to the mark between the fresh weed-growth. I was using my favourite Heli-Leaders and I had rigged up with a semi-stiff hook link I had on test that I fished Multi rig style, tied with my favourite size 5 TA Out-Turned Eye hooks. Bullet proof end tackle I have ultimate faith in.

All was good, and I savoured the moment after that first capture. I stuck the brolly up and made myself comfortable for the coming night as Jim, in the sun enjoying his first trip for some considerable time. A mate dropped by on his way home, and we sat at distance, just catching up on the year’s weird events, speculating on the forthcoming months ahead.

By mid-afternoon, the heavily baited rod fired into life and I scrambled into the waders only to be flat rodded immediately by a heavy old carp in a seemingly unstoppable mood! Eventually, I slowed the spool with my thumb on fire and the fish held ground before kiting powerfully right and charging out across the bay, heading around an island! I piled on the pressure and turned the yet unseen force just in the nick of time. After that she surged around in front of me for a few minutes before heading to a small gap on the inside of the same island. I waded out a little further to get an angle on her and Lance waded out with the net in readiness. We could see her bulk twisting on the edge of the reeds as she tried to bury her head in a bid for freedom, but it was all over! I turned her head once again, and Lance swiftly put her in the net…it was done!

She was huge across the shoulders and I gently tilted the net as it could have been one of two fish; the semi linear line of scales said it all … Ollie the Otter Dodger was mine! She tipped the scales at 50lb 8oz and was in absolutely prime spring condition - huge, immaculate and bristling with attitude…

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